PEORIA, IL – The St. Louis Cardinals and Peoria Chiefs have announced the preliminary roster for the Chiefs 36th season of professional baseball in the Midwest League. The roster includes eight 2017 draftees, two former first round picks, four of the top 30 players in the Cardinals organization ranked by MLB Pipeline/Baseball America and seven players who played at least one game for the Chiefs in 2015.
The top ranked prospects on the 2018 Chiefs roster are OF Jonatan Machado at #15 (BA)/#17 (MLB), RHP Alvaro Seijas #21/#20, RHP Johan Oviedo #23/#24 and returning OF Dylan Carlson #24/#18. Carlson and another returning outfielder, Nick Plummer, were first round picks with Carlson taken #33 overall in 2016 and Plummer was taken #23 overall in 2015.
The initial opening day roster includes 12 position players and 14 pitchers for second year Chiefs manager Chris Swauger. Of the positions players, six are infielders, four are outfielders and two are catchers. One of the Chiefs returning players is catcher Dennis Ortega who finished the 2017 season in Peoria after a long stint with State College. A 20-year old Venezuelan native, Ortega hit .234 overall last year with 11 RBI in 45 games. He will be joined behind the plate by Julio Rodriguez, a 20-year old from the Dominican Republic who signed in 2016. Rodriguez hit .280 for Johnson City last season with five homers, 14 doubles and 36 RBI before getting one game for Advanced-A Palm Beach.
As for the outfielders, Carlson spent all of last season with the Chiefs hitting .240 with seven homers, 42 RBI and 18 doubles in 115 games. The 33rd overall selection in 2016 out of Elk Grove High School in California, Carlson will be just 19 years old for the entire 2018 season. Denton played 19 games in the first half for the Chiefs last season and 56 in the second half for State College batting .240 overall with three homers. He was drafted in the second round of the 2015 draft out of Ravenwood High School in Tennessee. Machado spent last season with the Gulf Coast League Cardinals where he hit .209 with seven RBI in 17 games. A native of Havana, Cuba who signed with the Cardinals in 2016, Machado will be the first player in Chiefs history born in 1999. Plummer spent the entire season with the Chiefs last year batting .198 with 16 extra-base hits and 36 runs scored in 92 games. He was the 23rd overall pick of the 2015 draft out of Brother Rice High School in Michigan.
On the infield, Rayder Ascanio will play up the middle for the Chiefs, after three seasons doing the same for rival Clinton. A native of Venezuela, Ascanio was acquired by the Cardinals last August in the trade that sent Mike League to Seattle. Taylor Bryant has experience at second and third base after spending his first pro season with the GCL Cardinals batting .324 with 13 extra-base hits and 27 RBI. A native of Newport Beach, CA, Bryant was drafted in the 33rd round last June after playing in the College World Series with Cal State Fullerton. Yariel Gonzalez is a corner infielder who hit .305 with two homers last year for State College. A 23-year old native of Puerto Rico, Gonzalez signed with the Cardinals in 2016 out of Science & Arts College in Oklahoma. Irving Lopez is another middle infielder for the Chiefs who played last season with State College and Johnson City. A native of Mexico, Lopez hit .286 with five homers after being drafted out of Florida International in the 19th round last June. Elehuris Montero played third base last year for the GCL Cardinals batting .277 with five homers, 16 doubles and 36 RBI in 52 games. A 21-year old native of the Dominican Republic, Montero signed with the Cardinals in 2014. Juan Yepez is a corner infielder who hit .260 with seven home runs after joining the Chiefs last May. A native of Venezuela, Yepez was acquired from the Braves in exchange for Matt Adams in 2017.
Of the 14 pitchers on the roster, the Chiefs have six starting pitchers. Evan Guillory is a right-hander who pitched for Johnson City and Palm Beach last year going 2-2 with a 3.12 ERA in 17 games and seven starts. A native of Jennings, LA, Guillory was drafted in the 23rd round last June out of Louisiana-Lafayette. Right-hander Winston Nicacio pitched for the GCL Cardinals and Palm Beach last season going 4-4 with a 2.81 ERA in 13 games and eight starts. A 21-year old from the Dominican Republic, Nicasio signed with the Cardinals in 2015. Right-hander Johan Oviedo pitched for Johnston City and State College last season going 4-3 with a 4.68 ERA in 14 starts. Born in Cuba in 1998, Oviedo signed on July 2, 2016. Right-hander Alvaro Seijas is another prospect in the rotation after spending last season in Johnson City with a 4-3 record and 4.97 ERA in 12 starts. A 19-year old native of Venezuela, Seijas signed in 2015. Right-hander Jake Walsh pitched for Johnson City last year going 5-0 with a 0.95 ERA in 16 relief games. A 22-year old native of Indialantic, FL, Walsh was drafted in the 16th round last June out of Florida Southern College. Right-hander Kodi Whitley pitched for the GCL Cardinals and Palm Beach last season going 0-0 with a 1.53 ERA and two saves in 13 games. A native of Clayton, NC, the 22-year old was drafted in the 27th round last June out of Mount Olive (NC).
The bullpen includes five right-handers and two left-handers, with one pitcher likely to start the season on the disabled list. Lefty Fabian Blanco pitched for Johnson City last year going 0-2 with a 2.91 ERA and five saves in 20 games. A 20-year old native of Venezuela, Blanco signed in 2014. Right-hander Bryan Dobzanski returns to the Chiefs in 2018 after going 2-5 with a 3.70 ERA in 31 games and 12 starts in Peoria last year. A native of Franklinville, NJ, the 22-year old was drafted in the 29th round of the 2014 draft. Right-hander Kevin Hamann spent last season in the GCL and with Palm Beach going 1-1 with a 3.26 ERA and two saves in 14 games. A native of Bend, OR, the 24-year old was drafted in the 22nd round last June out of Lewis & Clark State College in Idaho. Lefty John Kilichowski returns to the Chiefs for a third season after missing most of last year with a hip injury and going 0-6 with a 7.06 ERA in 10 starts. A native of Tampa, FL, Kilichowski was drafted out of Vanderbilt in the 11th round of the 2016 draft. Right-hander Levi MaVorhis spent last season in State College going 1-1 with a 2.06 ERA in 17 games. A native of Seattle WA, the 23-year old signed as a free agent in 2016 out of Kansas State. Right-hander Cory Malcom spent last year with the GCL Cardinals going 0-0 with two saves and a 3.18 ERA in 12 games. A native of Elkhart, IN, Malcom was drafted in the 34th round last June out of Arkansas-Little Rock.. Right-hander Thomas St. Clair pitched last year with Johnson City going 2-1 with a 3.22 ERA and four saves in 20 games. The 23-year old native of Winston-Salem, NC was drafted in the 24th round last June out of Lenoir-Rhyne (NC).
Righty Zach Prendergast is expected to start the season on the disabled list but will travel with the team. He pitched last year with Johnson City going 3-0 with a 2.20 ERA in six starts. A 23-year old native of Horsham, PA, Prendergast signed as a free agent in 2017 out of Seton Hall.
As for the roster breakdown, the Chiefs will start the season with Machado (1/21/99) as the youngest player and Hamann (11/24/93) as the oldest. There are three 19-year olds, seven 20-year olds, two 21-year olds, six 22-year olds, seven 23-year olds and one 24-year old. Eight of the players on this roster were drafted by the Cardinals in 2017, two in 2016, two in 2015 and one in 2014. Eleven were signed as non-drafted free agents with two acquired via trade. Fourteen of the Chiefs players were born in the United States while five are from Venezuela, four from the Dominican Republic, two fro Cuba and one from Mexico. Of the American-born players, 11 states are represented. There are no native Illinoisans or Missouri born players with California, Florida and North Carolina leading the way with two players each.